Girraween National Park December 2023

Girraween National Park December 2023

Girraween holds a special place in my heart. It's one of those areas that feels right, feels like home almost. I visit as often as I can, and I can't get enough of the spectacular scenery dominated by granite outcrops that are home to some truly amazing creatures' reptiles and frogs in particular which thrive in the region. That's not to mention the Kangaroos, Wallabies, Gliders and even Wombats that call this spectacular place home.

The main watercourse that divides the park appeared healthy and full for the most part but the further downstream you walked the dryer it became with only a light flow between the shrinking pools. We are in an El Nino weather pattern at present, so it is to be expected however it's saddening to see the effects in natural areas. 

 

Arriving just in time to set up the tent before dark the first night was pretty slow in terms of finding active critters to photograph. A few Broad-palmed frogs called from the larger pools around the granite and the odd Emerald-spotted tree frog from hidden locations in and amongst the tress and vegetation around some of the pools.

Broad-palmed frogs

Emerald-spotted tree frog

It took another hour or so's walk before we came across one of the parks most spectacular gecko species clinging to the side of a small granite rock. The Granite belt leaf-tailed gecko is a master of disguise blending in brilliantly with the pink granite outcrops throughout the park. This little fella has a regenerated tail which is much smaller, less spiny and less well patterned than an original tail would have been. Still an awesome lizard though.

Not long after photographing the leaf-tailed gecko it began to rain, lightly at first, then lightning and thunder heralded an approaching storm which dumped heavy rain before we could get back to camp. It didn't last too long but had a positive effect activating the local frog population. Despite getting soaked to the skin the opportunity to photograph a few frogs on the walk back to camp was gratefully accepted and as it happened one of my target species, Sudell's frog was amongst them. By the time we made it back I was completely dry however my tent didn't fare so well, and I had to spend the first night sleeping on a wet mattress, sleeping bag and pillow. I survived and it's all part of the fun.

Ornate burrowing frog. There were lots of these guys taking advantage of the wet conditions after the storm.

A couple of Scarlet-sided Pobblebonks also enjoying the wet conditions. The second frog was very dark and quite a stunning specimen.

Sudell's frog. these guys are predominantly winter breeders, and I did spend a few weekends in the colder months trying to locate them but to no avail. Burrowing frog species will always take advantage of wet conditions when available to come to the surface to feed, even if it's well outside their primary breeding period.

Another pobblebonk, the Eastern banjo frog whose range overlaps the Scarlet-sided pobblebonk in the granite belt region. Quite similar in appearance but lacking th colour in the groin and on the backs of the legs and having a more mottled belly and lower sides. Thanks to Scott Eipper for confirming ID's. 

The following morning the rain had cleared, and the conditions remained very hot and extremely muggy all day. Would have been ok except that one tosser forgot to wear a hat which had me ducking for cover under every available spot of shade pretty much all day. You live and learn they say but do you really? I would have thought at my age I would have worked it out by now.

 

One of my main targets for the trip were the Bell's turtle formerly referred to as the Blad rock creek turtle. A short -necked species they were considered as possibly being distinct from the species bearing the Bell's turtle common name found in a couple of river systems in northeastern N.S.W. The photo below depicts a rock platform at water level which I spent a number of hours siting or lying face down on waiting for a Bell's turtle to show itself. As it turned out four turtles did show up and appeared to be interested in what the silly old bugger sitting on the rocks was up to. None of them ventured out of the water at any point to allow me to photograph them properly however I did manage a couple of passable shots through the reflections on the surface of the murky water.  

Around the edges of the water bodies there were numerous Eastern water skinks hunting and foraging. Funnily enough we didn't see a single Water dragon which was a little unusual.

The first striped skink seen was a large Eastern striped skink which I didn't manage to photograph through the tangle of vegetation. The next was the star of the show skink wise for me, a beautiful Brown-backed yellow-lined ctenotus. Quite a mouthful but a species that I don't get to photograph all that often.

Followed soon after by a Copper-tailed skink, one of the more common residents in the park.

Martin's skinks are another common species but all were pretty skittish in the hot humid conditions.

Another skink, possibly a Tree-base litter skink shot into the leaf litter and when I knelt to wait for it to reappear a couple of these guys decided to show their disapproval and charge me. I decided that it probably wasn't a great idea to hang around and had some vivid flash backs to my younger days and some painful experiences with Bull ants.

Fringed lily. Had to take a photo as I hadn't seen one for ages.

And to finish off the day a beautifully coloured and patterned Nobbi dragon. Reasonably active and difficult to photograph after a long hot day. 

It rained again just on dusk and the frogs were out and about again with many of the same species from the previous night making another appearance. This little Ornate burrowing frog was possibly the prettiest specimen I've ever seen.

A really pale Eastern banjo frog. It looked white when we first spotted it.

Another Ornate burrowing frog, this time a bit of a greenish hue.

A minor distraction when the geckos failed to come out to play. I think it's a Bombardier beetle. Check out the tiny red mites hitching a ride.

Amongst the cacophony of calling species on one of the granite platforms these Robust bleating tree frogs were probably the loudest.

A nice Southern-spotted velvet gecko with regenerated tail posed awkwardly on a fallen stick on the walk back to camp.

In the same area as the gecko no less than three more Sudell's frog within about a twenty metre section of track.

The following morning, we spent another hour or so watching the Bell's turtles before heading up to the base of the Pyramid, a monolith of granite and one of the park's main attractions. Nobbi dragons were prevalent as were the Jacky dragons, a slightly larger species with heaps of character.

The New England Cunningham's skink is a spectacular and well-known resident of the granite country but by time we reached them it was apparently too hot even for them. This little guy was tiny, possibly recently born and hadn't yet developed the strong spines on the tail which is a feature of Cunninham's skinks. The spines are employed when a predator tries to remove a skink from its crevice in the rock. They lock into the surface and make them virtually impossible to shift. The contrasting colours of these granite dwelling skinks is just stunning.

Finally, a colourful Nobbi dragon showcasing the granite and the dry forest in the background.

Stunning place and stunning animals even if I didn't get to tick too many of my target species off my list. Getting out and spending time in nature is good for the soul and the best possible form of rejuvenation for a tired, cranky old bastard or anyone else in need of a pick me up. Just do it, get out there and allow mother nature to weave her magic, you won't regret it.

Hope you enjoyed my rambling, more to come soon.

Mike Donovan.

 

 

 

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